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Elizabeth Bear

Fiction and Excerpts [10]
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Fiction and Excerpts [10]

Karen Memory (Excerpt)

Elizabeth Bear offers something new in Karen Memory, an absolutely entrancing steampunk novel set in Seattle in the late 19th century —- an era when airships plied the trade routes bringing would-be miners heading up to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront.

Karen Memory (Excerpt)

Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, lives in Rapid City in the late 19th century—when airships plied the trade routes bringing would-be miners heading up to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront.

Karen is a “soiled dove,” a young woman on her own who is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts into her world one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, seeking sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

Elizabeth Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper-type story of the old west with the light touch of Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science. Karen Memory is available February 3rd from Tor Books!

[Read an Excerpt]

The Contradictions of Diane Duane

In all her genres, Diane Duane is one of my favorite writers.

She spreads her talents around, too. She writes in multiple genres and forms—scripts to novels, tie-ins to original fiction, young adult urban fantasy to historical fantasy to science fiction to second-world fantasy. And whether she’s writing Y.A., as with her Young Wizards series, or Star Trek media tie-ins, she always brings an inimitable playful voice and a startling sense of “Yes; that’s right; that’s just like people.” to her work.

[Read More]

Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

Steles of the Sky (Excerpt)

Check out Elizabeth Bear’s Steles of the Sky, the conclusion to her her award-winning epic fantasy Eternal Sky trilogy, available April 8th from Tor Books.

Re Temur, legitimate heir to his grandfather’s Khaganate, has finally raised his banner and declared himself at war with his usurping uncle. With his companions—the Wizard Samarkar, the Cho-tse Hrahima, and the silent monk Brother Hsiung—he must make his way to Dragon Lake to gather in his army of followers.

But Temur’s enemies are not idle; the leader of the Nameless Assassins, who has shattered the peace of the Steppe, has struck at Temur’s uncle already. To the south, in the Rasan empire, plague rages. To the east, the great city of Asmaracanda has burned, and the Uthman Caliph is deposed. All the world seems to be on fire, and who knows if even the beloved son of the Eternal Sky can save it?

[Read an Excerpt]

Food of the Future

Science fiction has a bad reputation as far as portraying food goes—people are more likely to remember the yeast in Asimov’s Caves of Steel, the “earl grey, hot” from Star Trek, and the food pills from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Worse, they’re more likely to say fantasy has better food. Is this actually true?

Six science fiction authors—Elizabeth Bear, Aliette De Bodard, Ann Leckie, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, and Fran Wilde—gathered at a virtual Food of the Future roundtable to hash out the possibilities.

[Read More]

Book of Iron (Excerpt)

Take a peek at Elizabeth Bear’s Book of Iron, the standalone prequel to her acclaimed novella, Bone and Jewel Creatures, out this month from Subterranean Press:

Bijou the Artificer is a Wizard of Messaline, the City of Jackals. She and her partner—and rival—Kaulas the Necromancer, along with the martial Prince Salih, comprise the Bey’s elite band of trouble-solving adventurers.

But Messaline is built on the ruins of a still more ancient City of Jackals. So when two foreign Wizards and a bard from the mysterious western isles cross the desert in pursuit of a sorcerer intent on plundering the deadly artifacts of lost Erem, Bijou and her companions must join their hunt.

The quest will take them through strange passages, beneath the killing light of alien suns, with the price of failure the destruction of every land.

[Read more]

Shattered Pillars (Excerpt)

We’ve got an excerpt from Elizabeth Bears’ Shattered Pillars, sequel to Range of Ghosts, out on March 19:

Set in a world drawn from our own great Asian Steppes, this saga of magic, politics and war sets Re-Temur, the exiled heir to the great Khagan and his friend Sarmarkar, a Wizard of Tsarepheth, against dark forces determined to conquer all the great Empires along the Celedon Road.

Elizabeth Bear is an astonishing writer, whose prose draws you into strange and wonderful worlds, and makes you care deeply about the people and the stories she tells. The world of The Eternal Sky is broadly and deeply created—her award-nominated novella, “Bone and Jewel Creatures” is also set there.

[Read more]

Is it Magic or is it Mimetic? (Being a Review of Jo Walton’s Among Others

This week we’re looking at the novels nominated for this year’s upcoming Hugo Awards. Today we look at this year’s Nebula Award winner for Best Novel, Jo Walton’s Among Others.

There are a lot of coming-of-age stories in fantasy. They’re a staple of the genre; some might go so far as to say a cliché. But Among Others (excerpt available here) is far from your father’s fantasy Bildungsroman, and not just because it transfers the story of a girl growing up to more-or-less modern-day Wales.

In fact, it’s not really a Bildungsroman at all. Nor, despite featuring a sixteen-year-old heroine, is it a coming-of-age story. Because as the story starts, our heroine has already come of age. This is a book that concerns itself far more with surviving trauma and finding a place in the world than with finding one’s self.  Morwenna Phelps has already faced her worst monster, emerging scarred for life, with an indeterminate victory that cost the life of her twin sister.

[Spoilers are off at boarding school for the term]

Range of Ghosts (Excerpt)

We know you’ve been waiting for a glimpse — here’s an excerpt from Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts, out on March 27:

Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.

Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.

[Read more]

Best SFF Novels of the Decade: An Appreciation of Blindsight

It’s my opinion that Peter Watts’s Blindsight is the best hard science fiction novel of the first decade of this millennium—and I say that as someone who remains unconvinced of all the ramifications of its central argument. Watts is one of the crown princes of science fiction’s most difficult subgenre: his work is rigorous, unsentimental, and full of the sort of brilliant little moments of synthesis that make a nerd’s brain light up like a pinball machine. But he’s also a poet—a damned fine writer on a sentence level, who can make you feel the blank Lovecraftian indifference of the sea floor or of interplanetary space with the same ease facility with which he can pen an absolutely breathtaking passage of description. His characters have personalities and depth, and if most of them aren’t very nice people, well, that’s appropriate to the dystopian hellholes they inhabit.

[Read more]

Series: Best SFF Novels of the Decade Readers Poll

The Sea Thy Mistress (Excerpt)

Please enjoy this excerpt from Elizabeth Bear's upcoming book, The Sea Thy Mistress, out this February 1st from Tor Books. This quiet sequel to 2008's All the Windwracked Stars, focuses on those the angel Muire left behind, and the growth they must undergo even as the goddess Heythe plots against them.

Along with this excerpt, you can also enjoy Elizabeth Bear's extensive review posts here on Tor.com.

*

34 A.R. (After Rekindling)
1st of Spring

An old man with radiation scars surrounding the chromed half of his face limped down a salt-grass covered dune. Metal armatures creaked under his clothing as he thumped heavily across dry sand to wet, scuffing through the black and white line of the high-tide boundary, where the sharp glitter of cast-up teeth tangled in film-shiny ribbons of kelp. About his feet, small combers glittered in the light of a gibbous moon. Above, the sky was deepest indigo: the stars were breathtakingly bright.

[Read more]

Is it magic or is it mimetic? (Being a review of Jo Walton’s Among Others)

There are a lot of coming-of-age stories in fantasy. They’re a staple of the genre; some might go so far as to say a cliché. But Among Others (excerpt available here) is far from your father’s fantasy Bildungsroman, and not just because it transfers the story of a girl growing up to more-or-less modern-day Wales.

In fact, it’s not really a Bildungsroman at all. Nor, despite featuring a sixteen-year-old heroine, is it a coming-of-age story. Because as the story starts, our heroine has already come of age. This is a book that concerns itself far more with surviving trauma and finding a place in the world than with finding one’s self.  Morwenna Phelps has already faced her worst monster, emerging scarred for life, with an indeterminate victory that cost the life of her twin sister.

[Spoilers are off at boarding school for the term]

Chasing the warmth: Being a review of Greg Bear’s Hull Zero Three

It’s an interesting experience being asked to review Hull Zero Three—a bit like stepping into an alternate universe, in some ways. Because this book bears a superficial resemblance to my own Jacob’s Ladder trilogy—Dust, Chill, and Grail—in that both are about derelict generation ships gone to mysterious and awful biomechanical fecundity, whose histories conceal awful secrets and whose surviving crews must struggle with a series of knotty ethical dilemmas.

What can I say? You railroad when it’s railroading time.

But the thing that makes it interesting is not how similar the books are, but—given their parallel premises—how very different. Because while a quick plot summary makes them sound very like, Hull Zero Three is very much its own thing.

[No real spoilers here]

“The Cold Equations” in south central PA—being a review of Unstoppable

This is the third in a series of reviews of spec fic by stealth. The rest are here.

 

At first glance, Tony Scott’s Unstoppable might appear to be just Speed on a train. But I submit to you that not only is it a much better movie than SpeedUnstoppable is one of the best thrillers I’ve seen in a long time—but that it’s uniquely suited to a science fiction audience. Throughout the film, I found myself comparing it not to Speed, but to Tom Godwin’s legendary science fiction short “The Cold Equations.” Not because Unstoppable revolves around a moral quandary supported by a contrived narrative, but because it sets up its premise and parameters and then follows them ruthlessly to the end.

To wit: a half-mile long freight train weighing in excess of a million pounds and carrying hazardous material is headed for a 15-mph curve in a Harrisberg/Scrantonesque cryptomunicipality in Pennsylvania at 71 miles per hour. Due to human error, the behemoth is unmanned, and the air brakes are not operational.

What do you do?

[The train, it won’t stop going. No way to slow down]

1774—Being a review of Barbara Hamilton’s A Marked Man

If you hadn’t guessed from the tags, “Barbara Hamilton” is a somewhat transparent pseudonym for SFF’s own Barbara Hambly. I reviewed the first of her Abigail Adams mysteries here last year around this time.

A Negro slave is missing. The King’s Special Commissioner—a man of limited popularity in pre-Revolution Boston—has been murdered. And Abigail Adams is on the job.

More than anything else about Hamilton/Hambly’s work, I think I love the way she writes marriages. They make me think that I might like to be married, which is a pretty good trick given my track record. The central relationship in these books—that of Abigail and John Adams, one of the most famous (and famously well-documented, given the status of both of its members as compulsive letter-writers) romances in American history—is delightful. It’s writen in delightful nuance, neither saccharine nor flat nor overly “romancy,” but just the daily life of two strong and nonconformist people who have well-worn in to each others tics and quirks through the years.

Abigail is also a cunning protagonist: she’s smart and bold and completely believable as an 18th-century woman of very good sense and a strong belief in justice. Likewise, I can’t fault Hamilton’s worldbuilding. Her wintry Boston of the late colonial era rings as true as if you’d dropped a silver coin on its stones.

[Which is not to say I am bereft of quibbles]

“Those four words of endearment have cost this casino one million and counting today.” — Being a review of The Cooler

This is the second in a series of reviews of spec fic by stealth. The whole list is here.

Wayne Kramer’s 2003 drama The Cooler is one of urban fantasy’s best-kept secrets. It’s also one of the very few cinematic representations of Las Vegas that ring true to me, as a long-term former resident of the city where you’re not supposed to remember that not everybody’s a tourist.

The Cooler, like the short-lived FX comedy Lucky, focuses on the lives of the people who eke out a living in the margins of Sin City—cocktail waitresses, washed-up lounge acts, old-school Vegas mobsters failing to adapt in the shadow of the new corporate moneymakers that now run the town. And one Bernie Lootz, played brilliantly by William H. Macy—a guy so unlucky he’s contagious. Really, really contagious. Magically so.

[You blindsided me, Bernie Lootz. I didn’t see it coming. You shouldn’t do that to a girl]

“We’re a bad machine.” Being a review of Raphael Carter’s The Fortunate Fall

There’s a long literary tradition of legendary “only” novels—books with no siblings, authors who only published one novel—and Raphael Carter’s The Fortunate Fall is one of them. It’s been reviewed extensively—here at Tor.com, among other places, by our own Jo Walton—and remains widely admired.

And it is, in fact, admirable. And rich enough to reward repeated reading and discussion.

Among its other strengths, The Fortunate Fall is a beautifully constructed first-person narrative, told from the point of view of Maya Andreyeva, a “camera.” Which is to say, a person whose entire career is devoted to being a first-person point of view for faceless, amorphous millions. She broadcasts a full-sensation telepresence to the net.

[Here there be no spoilers of significance]

It is in far Siena that our scene is set—being a review of Anne Fortier’s Juliet

This is the first in a series of posts discussing various works that may be considered “stealth” speculative fiction—by which I mean, science fiction that is not marketed as such, but which undeniably embraces speculative elements. This may include movies, books, plays, poetry, and anything else that catches my eye.

Good. Whew. Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Anne Fortier’s Juliet.

Juliet is the story of Julie Jacobs, a woman orphaned at a young age in Italy and raised by her Aunt Rose in America, who returns to Italy after the death of her aunt seeking some clue as to her family history. She’s been both urged to and cautioned against this trip, but she’s left with little option, as her aunt’s entire estate has been willed to Julie’s despised sister Janice, and Julie (feckless, unemployed, and deep in debt) is left with only a ticket to Italy, the name of a bank manager, and a passport in her birth name—which turns out not to be Julie Jacobs at all.

[A plague on both your houses!]

Your Tamagotchi misses you. (Being a review of Ted Chiang’s The Lifecycle of Software Objects)

So—shock of shockers here, I know—I really like Ted Chiang, and not just because he’s got really awesome hair and is proof that it’s still possible to amass a very good reputation as an SF writer while sticking to a focus on short work. My favorite story of his to date is “Stories of Your Life,” which may have made me have to find a Kleenex quickly.

In short, I jumped at the opportunity to review his new novella from Subterranean, The Lifecycle of Software Objects.

This? Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very peculiar little book, and I mean that in the absolute best way possible. Chiang gives us a rapid overview of the evolution and abandonment of a species of digital pet that may—or may not—be evolving artificial intelligence, and a very cogent overview of how people might respond… the ones that even notice.

[Spoilers want to marry out of their species]